Three Female Authors and Their Hushed Love of Science

1. Emily Dickinson & Her Herbarium

Gathering, growing, classifying and pressing flowers was a passion of Emily Dickinson's long before she got her start at a poet. She began her studies in botany at age nine, but it wasn’t until her late teens that she began viewing her love of botany with a more scientific eye.

 Emily Dickinson, daguerreotype, ca. 1847. (Amherst College Archives & Special Collections, gift of Millicent Todd Bingham, 1956)

Emily's herbarium is kept in the Emily Dickinson Room at Harvard’s Houghton Rare Book Library, however time has taken it's tole and the fragility of the collection prohibits scholars from examining it. If you've got a little over a grand laying around, you can purchase the a facsimile edition on Amazon but if you're a regular gal like me, that's probably not the case. Thankfully, this modern world we live in has enabled the digitizing of Emily’s herbarium

 A page from Emily Dickinson’s herbarium via the  Houghton Library , Harvard University.
 Pressed flowers on a page from Emily Dickinson’s herbarium via the  Houghton Library , Harvard University.
 A page from Emily Dickinson’s herbarium via the  Houghton Library , Harvard University.
 A page from Emily Dickinson’s herbarium via the  Houghton Library , Harvard University.
 A page from Emily Dickinson’s herbarium via the  Houghton Library , Harvard University.
 A page from Emily Dickinson’s herbarium via the  Houghton Library , Harvard University.
 

2. Beatrix Potter & Her Fungi Watercolors

Like Emily Dickinson, Beatrix Potter's interest in mushrooms predates her ventures into writing. Her passion first came to light in 1887, at age 20, when she began studying and meticulously documenting fungi using watercolor. Her love continued over the years and by the time she died in 1943, she had produced around 350 known images of fungi, mushrooms and spores. 

 Beatrix Potter as a teenager

In a 2007 biography around Beatrix, historian Linda Lear wrote, “Beatrix’s interest in drawing and painting mushrooms, or fungi, began as a passion for painting beautiful specimens wherever she found them...She was drawn to fungi first by their ephemeral fairy qualities and then by the variety of their shape and colour and the challenge they posed to watercolour techniques.” 

Is it just me or does Lear's description above make the connection between Beatrix's drawings and writing seem crystal clear?

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3. Margaret Gatty & Her Seaweed Collection

English children's author Margaret Gatty had a fascination with marine life and over her lifespan, amassed a large collection of marine-related specimens. She acquainted herself with some of the most prominent names in marine studies and educated herself in the science of the seas.

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While Margaret did teach herself to draw these specimens she became so enamored with, the illustrations shown here were actually drawn by someone else who was hired to illustrate her book British Sea-Weeds. Apparently she was never really happy with these but wen ahead and used them for the publication anyway.

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